TAKEAWAY: 304 Elite Camp

On Saturday, the first annual 304 Elite Camp was hosted at Parkersburg High School and went extremely well.  West Virginia specific talent spent much of the hot May day going through positional drills, 1v1s, and many reps of 7v7 with a slew of college coaches in attendance.  Here’s our takeway:

 

A/AA Came to Play

Talking to the camp director, his main goal was to allow smaller school players to compete and show their worth against big school competition.  What we saw were several quarterbacks tossing some stellar balls all day long.

Cason Payne of Point Pleasant was a pure standout possessing size and had a tight spiral while being an uncommon lefty.  Jacob Hartman of Petersburg has one of the most developed frames and skillsets we have seen all off-season.  More unknown QBs, Caden Rohrbrouogh of Lewis County and Austin Isaacs of Midland Trail had coaches talking throughout the day as well.

Sherman High had three standouts alone with linemen Layne Daniel and Justin Hawkins- both with elite size.  JT Hensely scored more than anyone on the day in 7v7 at wide out but is poised to be the quarterback this season.  Poca and Summers County also had great performers in multiple positions.

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Cementing Player Rankings

The much argued linebacker rankings were put to hush for those in attendance.  Jermain Snodgrass of Wheeling Park and Drew Joseph of South Charleston were all over the field and most importantly, stood out in individual and team with excellent angling.  Mike Bartram of Wayne and Luke Jackson of Ravenswood were constistent with good wrap ups and a few forced fumbles.  Brocton Blair of Huntington showed he deserved more in the rankings with superior pass coverage all day long.

The skill players backed us up but also caught our eyes with some new names.  Owen Chafin of Spring Valley showed off his hands multiple times and Curtis McGhee of Wheeling Central and Quisean Gray of Capital gave us a look at their defensive back skills opposed to their known offensive prowless.  Kaden Rice of Morgantown was a player heard of but not seen and stood out greatly at wide receiver alongside Antonio Parsons of Fairmont Senior and defensive back Amari George of Riverside.

Talking hog mollies, Martinsburg’s Brandon Moran, Woodrow Wilson’s Colton Wright, and Capital’s Jonathan Kennedy all had stellar days and backed up their places on our Player Watch.  The same can be said for Midland Trail’s Hunter Jones and Parkersburg’s Ryan Creech.  Dalton Geter of Hurricane caught our eye and found himself as a new addition on the list.

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What’s to Come

As we conversed with the 304 Elite staff, we truly know that these folks have nothing but positive intentions for the youth of West Virginia.  They have a lot of talent and knowledge for the state.  There is a lot of passion here and everyone will continue to see it resignate in upcoming events.

The 2018 304 Elite Camp was incredibly well run with its scheduling and assitance to media, players, coaches, and parents.  It is affordable and all costs went strictly towards covering the event.  Not only that, but there were top tier coaches working the drills with dozens of college coaches in attendance.

We heard that multiple camps would be worked towards hopefully but also adding that they aren’t sticking solely to football.  They are having 304 Elite Basketball Camp coming up soon in July in Charleston with plans to cover and help every sport they can.  These are some great people with awesome visions, and we can’t wait to see them boom!  2018 304 Elite was a big-time success!

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TOP 5 WV AA/A LINEBACKERS OF 2018

To some it might seem early but as players begin hitting lifting PR’s and getting in shape- the season has never quite ended.  The chase for a trip to Wheeling never ends, and we are taking Fridays in the current offseason to highlight the top five players returning per position in AAA and AA/A (combined).  Not on the list?  Good thing it’s not even preseason yet.  Prove us right or prove us wrong.

 

Without further ado…

 

Honorable Mentions

Nate Kowalski (Fairmont Senior) 2020

Doug Morral (Petersburg) 2019

Ben Kee (Herbert Hoover) 2020

 

#5 Dalton Pollock

DP

School: Frankfort

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’1 / 220 lbs

Pollock comes onto the list as probably the lesser known of everyone else here.  Panhandle players sometime struggle gaining attention but Pollock caught ours.  He’s a very good sized player that has a solid engine.  Being a good runningback as well, Pollock has great hit power and quick enough speed to cover the field sideline to sideline.  His performance will dictate immediately if Frankfort can get out of the average level of AA.

 

#4 Adam Murray

AM

School: Wheeling Central

Year: 2020

HT/WT: 6’1 / 225 lbs

Many will critique us for having the reigning Huff Award winner at number four, but we try to not let outside things influence our opinion.  Saying this, Murray is only a rising junior and has plenty of time to make us eat our words.  He is a strong linebacker that can overpower (outsize in most cases) many lineman he faces.  His motor is evident with almost 200 tackles.  His downhill movement is what needs developed, and we guarantee it will.

 

#3 Luke Jackson

LJ.jpg

School: Ravenswood

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’10 / 220 lbs

Jackson was evaluated high months ago when his hard-hitting film surfaced.  He is typical stocky middle linebacker that can deliver some incredible shots.  His speed is good enough to get the job done and his strength is very obvious.  A big fault is his knockout blows can have him out of control at time.  Ravenswood is a silent favorite for a good season in 2018 and Jackson is a reason for it.

 

 

#2 Arnold Martin

AMartin
Photo Credits: Marcus Constantino

School: Bluefield

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’0 / 225 lbs

The more this offseason goes the more we truly understand that the Beavers had many other players not named Mookie or Truck.  Martin was a tackling machine for Bluefield last season.  He’s especially good at forcing the run game to go side-to-side with proper angling and finishing.  Martin could polish up several areas of his game but is definitely an outstanding linebacker coming back this year.

 

#1 Mike Bartram

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School: Wayne

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’0 / 215 lbs

Bartram is one of the most fun players to see play.  We believe linebacker isn’t just a position but also an attitude and Bartram has that.  He plays much more vicious and mean than those he faces.  Mix that in with his solid athleticism and you have a high-caliber linebacker.  Small mistakes plague his game here and there but overall a very consistent and good linebacker.  Once again, a big reason for his team’s early praise.

 

 

Who did we miss?  Let us know!  We never shy away from people telling us we’re missing out on kids!  Our next Feature Five Friday will take on the top returning wide receivers in AAA!  Let us know who should be in there!

 

 

Off-Season Stories (1/2)

The 2018 off-season has seen some interesting turns.  Recruiting within the Mountain State seems to continue its upward trend, teams seem to be taking advantage of the offered flex days within the off-season, June ball is right around the corner along with the 7v7 circuit, and it is about that time where headlines in transfers and scheduling begin making waves.  Let’s take a look:

 

Progress in Going D1

The mid-2010’s sparked waves of big-time colleges coming through West Virginia.  Huntington and Spring Valley paved the way with big-time lineman and both have their highest recruited ones yet (Darnell Wright and Doug Nester) as well as their two teammates (Max Howell and Zach Williamson).  Now though, we have seen a barrage of Division One offers going out to players outside that hotbed and outside of AAA.

Dewayne Grantham (Martinsburg) and Grant Wells (George Washington) have already signed D1 and players such as Kerry Martin Jr. (Capital), Brenton Strange (Parkersburg), Tyler Komorowski (Weir), Jestohn Moore (Morgantown), Bray Price (Wheeling Central), and newly offered upcoming sophomore Isaiah Johnson (Bluefield) all have Division One offers.

Division One is definitely not everything, but it is a good sign that big schools are looking here.  Combines such as the Appalachia Prep Combine, the Nike Opening (increasing WV invites), and the upcoming 304 Elite Camp are all vital in getting these players athletic showcasing.  It’s not there yet considering combine results only say so much- refer to Vontaze Burfict, NFL pro-bowler of the Cincinnati Bengals.  Regardless, the progress is great and much appreciation to those helping to give these kids exposure.

 

Strategic Scheduling?

An intersting story came about on the web regarding Lincoln County’s 2018 schedule.  The Panthers (AA) scheduled six Single A programs for the upcoming season which automatically disqualifies them from the playoff mathematically.  They apparently did the same thing in the 2017 as well where they finished 3-7 (2-5 vs Single A schools).

The decision to continue with this brought about a large opposition calling for the firing of the coach and athletic director.  Many people argue that not giving the kids a fighting chance going into the season defeats the purpose of playing the games in the first place.  What type of message does this send to the kids who are playing a sport supposedly molding character?

The other side argues that: what’s the point of going against AA schools and getting blown out by 60?  They say that the program can get back on track with the kids learning how to win against lower level competition instead of suffering harsh defeats week in and week out.  It’s an interesting situation with very opinionated sides.

Scheduling as a whole is a very tedious process.  Some schools play treacherous schedules and have it pay out while others get beat down from it.  Being in a conference does promise matchups but what happens when the conference is too elite and middle teams get beat down to bottomfeeders?  Is it cowardly to leave or is it smart?

 

The Applachia Free Agency

Transferring from schools by players has always been a trait of high school sports.  Traditionally, it hasn’t been too common here in West Virginia compared to the rampant market you hear about down in sport hotbeds like Florida and Texas.  However, it seems to be in the discussion every year now.

Previous cases regarded star players of Tug Valley like Jeremy Dillon and Dawson Elia who went on to have VERY successful careers at Mingo Central with a state championship, Kennedy Award, and multiple all-state selections.  The Kanawha Valley will always have recruitment out of middle school occur when the talent pools are so fertile.  Big name players like Curon Cordon (South Charleston to Hurricane) and Quisean Gray (Riverside to Capital) both are cases of transferring going on during high school.

We are not claiming by any means that these transfers weren’t due to physical moves or other reasons outside sports- just pointing at the trend considering the increasing rumors of #5 RB Donovan Kirby making the move from Madonna to Weir, a team poised to be a serious contender in AA.  Once again, not claiming anything is occurring or the reasoning is bad.  These are kids and every situation is unique and it shouldn’t be up to the outside sperspective to decide if it is right.

 

How the 2018 season is beginning to look…

Not so fast, you won’t catch our predictions this early but there are some obvious trends we see.  Capital is the only school that has their quarterback returning, a very good one we might add, along with mostly every big-time player they had whereas the others in the top 10 all look to replace their main men.  One cannot downplay the evergoing dominance of Martinsburg though.

Huntington, though incredibly impressive with their players’ camp performances, is still needing to replace Luke Zban at QB and Jadon Hayes at RB.  Spring Valley lost several stud athletes but have a beastly line along with top tier RBs.  We are interested in seeing that one AAA, similar to John Marshall of 2017, rise out of nowhere.

Honestly, Bluefield has to replace thousands of offensive yards but no one can deny they don’t have a lot returning compared to Mingo Central, Fairmont Senior, and Bridgeport.  The Big Ten and Cardinal Conference are wide open it seems as who can rise as the team to beat.  We also watch for some dormant monsters sitting in the panhandles that could shake up the entire state.

Single A?  Yeah, Wheeling Central.

TOP 5 WV AAA LINEBACKERS OF 2018

To some it might seem early but as players begin hitting lifting PR’s and getting in shape- the season has never quite ended.  The chase for a trip to Wheeling never ends, and we are taking Fridays in the current offseason to highlight the top five players returning per position in AAA and AA/A (combined).  Not on the list?  Good thing it’s not even preseason yet.  Prove us right or prove us wrong.

 

Without further ado…

 

Honorable Mentions

Keenan Smoot (Hedgesville) 2020

RJ Barrett (Martinsburg) 2019

Brocton Blair (Huntington) 2020

 

#5 JT Cooper

JC

School: Hurricane

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’1 / 225 lbs

Cooper has been the centerpiece in one of Hurricane’s best runs in school history defensively.  Last year he had fellow standouts to attack offenses with but those guys are gone which leaves him as the sole man.  Cooper has a good downhill presence and rarely misses tackles.  He has obvious X and O control over his squadron which is paramount to a linebacker’s success.  He heads into 2018 with talent, hard work, and experience.

 

#4 Jestohn Moore

JMoore

School: Morgantown

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’2 / 195 lbs

Moore drops on our list as the most improved and most college ready.  Moore’s lanky build gives him incredible leverage and torque off the edge.  He is explosive with his movements and offensive lineman struggle mightily handling him off the edge.  His consistency and space play still need improving, but he easily makes up for those with firework plays on defense.

 

#3 Breece Hoff

BHoff

School: Capital

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 6’0 / 180 lbs

Hoff is without a doubt the fastest linebacker on this list.  His straight-line speed is phenomenal.  He has a good instinct on pressuring the quarterback and getting the angle right to ensure the play.  Hoff has been moved around in positions due to his variability.  Even though he had a stellar junior year, his specificity on pass rushing drops him behind two all-around backers.  Regardless, expect big things.

 

#2 Drew Joseph

DJ

School: South Charleston

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’9 / 185 lbs

Joseph has the most baffling stat-line of anyone we’ve seen yet.  Nearing 200 tackles in back-to-back seasons- even if accused of stretching stats, that’s still a crazy amount if you deduct 50.  He gets these numbers by being everywhere.  Joseph goes sideline to sideline and always with a purpose.  He has great breakdown, instinct, and knows how/when to pierce an offensive line.  His biggest catch is he is very undersized.  For now, his heart and speed can allow him to be a top West Virginia linebacker.

 

#1 Jermain Snodgrass

JS

School: Wheeling Park

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’10 / 215 lbs

Snodgrass probably isn’t even on many people’s list let alone numero uno.  But we don’t play politics here, and this kid can play.  He isn’t greatly sized but his play speaks for itself.  He has the best see-and-go mentality of any linebacker we have watched.  Snodgrass plays at a higher pace and is constantly making big hits and dicing up offenses.  He is a prime mix of talent, instinct, athleticism, and attitude.  Keep an eye out, folks.

 

 

 

 

Who did we miss?  Let us know!  We never shy away from people telling us we’re missing out on kids!  Our next Feature Five Friday will take on the top returning linebackers in AA/A!  Let us know who should be in there!

The Best High School Football in WV History? FINAL

The final part to our intensely researched series.  This is by no means a definitive answer but we’re in the ballpark.  We have analyzed stats to death, talked to endless of amounts of players and coaches, and we have decided on our greatest team to ever.  Now, we understand the clear advantage of AAA’s in this setup and next off-season we will take on AA and A solely.  Check out parts one through three below and enjoy!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

 

SEMIFINAL

’73 East Bank vs ’16 Martinsburg

The Bulldogs found themselves in a very unfamiliar place.  Calvert Field of East Bank- a school disbanded before they were even born.  Now, they lined up against boys generations older wearing draping jerseys and giant pads.  Their tight jerseys and flashy colors perfectly contrasted the old-style facemasks and uniformity of their opponents.  Both squads were nervous to be playing a half with rules they weren’t used to.  The first half would be played with Martinsburg’s modern officiating while the second would be in East Bank’s old rules.

A lot of respect was shown both ways during the coin toss and when Martinsburg won, Coach Walker was ready to show the 70s his high-flying offense.  Martinsburg definitely had size advantage obvious on the kickoff.  However, once the ball was booted- it became regular football.  The Bulldogs picked the pace up fast and had the Pioneers spread and out of position often.  Also, their were several pass interference penalties going down the field.  Mikey Jackson took an inside zone 23-yards for the first score.

The ensuing Pioneer drive began with two stuffs of Claude Geiger by Trey Henry.  Head coach Don Payne had prepared for such a stall.  With an off-set fake to another back, Geiger released on a wheel as the Martinsburg D played over aggressive.  Geiger was hit down the sideline where he broke several tackles and went 66-yards to the house.  The stadium was electric.  Yet, the Pioneers’ defensive line had a learning curve with the offensive line using their hands to block.  Though Greg Huffman and Don Payne had multiple pressures on Tyson Bagent, he got them off just in time.  Back-to-back scoring drives had Martinsburg up 21-7.  A late drive led by unique play calling allowed East Bank a field goal going into the half.  21-10.

Martinsburg wasn’t entirely happy with only being up by 11 with their rule-advantage.  Even though the Pioneers had not been in this position ever, the fact that it was their field and their rules had given them a spark as they started the second.  The offense-defense exchanges became like two heavyweights trading blows with the Bulldogs holding their own.  As cracks, iso’s, and toe-to-toe running pounded, East Bank scored back-to-back drives while the Bulldogs struggled blocking and getting off the ball.

The Bulldogs coaches got in their ears and informed them on how to realign how to play.  Midway through the fourth, East Bank pounded Geiger trying to milk the clock up by three.  Big stops had them at third and long.  With a play-action rollout, Tavis Lee got loose and strip sacked the ball into the arms of Dewayne Grantham who took it all the way back.  28-24 Martinsburg.

Three minutes remained and East Bank continued their dominant run game.  However, the time was very much against them.  The Bulldog frontline slowed them down just enough for them to go to passing as the seconds ticked away.  Quick pressure off the edge and great DB play put the game on ice and a final hail mary was batted down.  The Bulldogs had survived their Bronze Era foe and now went on to the championship matchup.

IB

’73 East Bank (24) ’16 Martinsburg (28)

 

 

’79 Bridgeport vs ’89 Capital

The Bridgeport Indians stood on the sidelines of Bridgeport Athletic Field prepared to take on the team plus Stonewall Jackson that took overtime to beat the previous round.  Like it had been every time as they would say, they were doubted.  The Cougars were well aware they were in their house but carried a noticeable chip on their shoulders.  It was especially evident requesting to take the ball first.

Will King, the quarterback of the Cougars, returned with several more stars to rematch with Bridgeport.  Jerome Dean became an early force on both sides of the ball but especially with his running as the Indians tried to focus on King.  This didn’t work and a Scott Ayres offensive line paved them down for an easy score.  Wayne Jamison didn’t flinch and running back Charlie Fest ran himself down the field on a 15-play drive to tie it at 7-7.

Capital kept up their quick hitting offense.  Passes to Eric Smedley had them deep in Indian territory quickly and a QB power took them back 14-7.  As every great matchup could be, going into the second, Bridgeport stuck to their guns and landed another long drive and a Bobby Marra touchdown this time around.  They left too little time for Capital to gain a touchdown and though being sliced up, they were tied 14-14 at the half.

What was prolonged in their second-round game could be not be said again.  The opening drive was swallowed up by Todd Robinson and a swarming Capital defense.  A deep punt return set up a corner route where King hit a throw over two men.  Once again, despite several first downs, Capital forced a fumble and carried momentum.

The next two drives going into the fourth could have had anyone on Capital’s squad score.  They fed into the momentum and who ever touched the ball made a play.  Though Bridgeport’s stars still were making plays such as back-to-back sacks by Brad Minetree, it was almost as if it wasn’t meant to be.  Roger Jefferson put in the subs, and they kneed it out in a less dramatic fashion than the previous round for Bridgeport.  They made it incredibly far but weren’t enough and fell 35-14.

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’79 Bridgeport (14) ’89 Capital (35)

 

 

CHAMPIONSHIP

’89 Capital vs ’16 Martinsburg

 

Wheeling Island was filled to the brim.  A sea of blue and silver on one side and an ocean of black and orange on the other.  A school in its first year of existence versus a program in the middle of a dynasty unseen before.  Both teams revolutionized the rate of offense matched with an incredibly stout defense.  Two legendary coaches, two all-state quarterbacks, multiple Hunt/Huff Award winners, and more college players than the eye could see.  All here in front of generations of fans to decide who really is the best team ever.

The first quarter could be explained with one word: bland.  In almost a cross-out effect, the stars on both sides cancelled each other out.  When Tyson Bagent made a good throw, Will King would break and knock the pass out.  When Tavis Lee got the edge on a lineman, the stellar offensive line would adapt and halt him.  Very few yards were gained and very few mistakes were made.

Some clever play-calling by Coach Walker had the Bulldogs gain traction.  Creatively using Isaac Brown had them finally get close enough for field goal going up 3-0.  Similar reaction and style-calling by Roger Jefferson came back around.  Eric Smedley caught a deep bomb over the Martinsburg secondary.  A quick three-and-out ensued after big stops from Jalen Hesen.  With the second quarter almost over, Capital thought about going for it but elected to kick a field goal and tie 3-3 going into the half.

The third quarter would forever go down as one of the sloppiest quarters either team would ever play.  Bagent fumbled a snap on the opening drive but recovered only to throw a pick two plays later.  Capital would foil the opportunity as well as Grant Harman would dive for a deflected pass and a takeaway.  Late in the third, both quarterbacks had open receivers and missed the throw.  Two teams fearless and clutch from game one both felt the pressure of the moment.

Where the quarterbacks struggled, the lineman picked up.  Big plays again and again by Hesen and Lee held Capital at bay until the offense got going.  It only took one play.  Halfway through the fourth, Bagent faked a zone to Dewayne Grantham whom had been the horse all day and saw Brown running down the seam.  As Todd Robinson reached him, he let loose a perfect pass over the coverage into Brown’s arms and strolled into the endzone.  10-3.

Jefferson chose his traditional approach.  Nothing fancy.  This was just another game, and they were going to win like they always had.  A mixture of off-tackle runs by Jerome Dean, several play-actions that turned into scrambles, and finally, as Martinsburg crowded the box with seconds remaining on their own ten- a sweep to Smedley who dove into the corner pylon.  At this point, the kicker stayed on the sideline.

A roar of decades went through Wheeling Island.  Capital had clutched it and now, they chose not overtime but to win it straight up.  The lights were the same, the field was same, and both teams were drenched in sweat and a little bit of blood.  There was no doubt the play call.  Martinsburg stacked the box.  Capital stacked the backfield.  King took the snap and moved behind his running backs and line.  Henry and Hesen dug potatoes and stuffed the middle.  King took the ball off tackle where he would meet Grantham and Lee on their heels.

TB

’89 Capital (?) ’16 Martinsburg (10)

 

 

So yeah, we took a cop-out, but we will let the people decide who wins that battle at the goal line.  All teams in this and several we didn’t include should all be talked about when the greatest is taken into account.  Our personal opinion, as showed in our narrative above, is that the modern generation could adjust to the toughness of that style just as the older generations could adjust to the spread and speed of the modern age.  All these teams are legendary and it was a blast shining a light statistically but also fictionally.  

TOP 5 WV AA/A RUNNINGBACKS OF 2018

To some it might seem early but as players begin hitting lifting PR’s and getting in shape- the season has never quite ended.  The chase for a trip to Wheeling never ends, and we are taking Fridays in the current offseason to highlight the top five players returning per position in AAA and AA/A (combined).  Not on the list?  Good thing it’s not even preseason yet.  Prove us right or prove us wrong.

 

Without further ado…

 

Honorable Mentions

Nick Vance (Winfield) 2020

Jeremiah Johnston (Richwood) 2020

Ethan Payne (Poca) 2021

 

#5 Jordan Dempsey

JD

School: Fayetteville

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’10 / 170 lbs

Dempsey rolls into his senior year with two stat-packed seasons under his belt.  2017 had him experience the sole duty of being the offensive firepower.  He delivered many times with electric plays shooting down the field.  His ability to play multiple positions makes him dynamic and the heart and soul of the Pirates.  His downside is his smaller frame has him get beat up very fast especially with the amount of touches he receives.

 

#4 Connor White

CW

School: Scott

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’8 / 170 lbs

White drops onto our list as the smallest but potentially the fastest.  Overlooking his height and weight, White undoubtedly knows how to hit a hole without hesitation.  His acceleration is top notch, and his foot speed outclasses 9/10 defenders he goes against in the open field.  He spent much of the 2017 season sidelined with an injury but made much noise when he could.  Scott partners him with fellow all-state runningback Carson McComas for a very dynamic duo.

 

#3 Mark Rucker

MR

School: Tyler Consolidated

Year: 2020

HT/WT: 6’0 / 170 lbs

Rucker could be one of the better kept secrets within the state.  Those who have played him in Single A are very much familiar with the name.  As a sophomore, Rucker was a one-man show out of Sistersville.  There might not be a position on offense he can’t excel at.  His best trait is his catch and go whether from the slot or backfield.  He has legit 4.5 speed and superb length.  Expect big things.

 

#2 Juice Edwards

JE

School: Bluefield

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’10 / 185 lbs

As a duo of original names depart, one more rises in its absence.  Behind a fantastic line, Edwards is a poised for a very strong senior season.  He has size, strength, and speed.  Judging from his previous seasons, he runs with an attitude as well.  Edwards has the ability to plant and crash a gap for a tough several yards or even perhaps slip away and hit a homerun.  The Beaver run game is not going anywhere.

 

#1 Donovan Kirby

DK

School: Madonna

Year: 2019

HT/WT: 5’11 / 212 lbs

Kirby brings a mix between explosiveness and pure power.  Many can argue that they play a weak schedule, but we don’t see many others hurdling defensive backs and stiff arming lineman into the dirt.  Rushing for near 2,500 yards- what else could he do?  He has a next level frame and decent speed.  Kirby has the ability to take the rock 30+ times a game for every game in the season.  Outsider rumors say there is a potential transfer to AA Weir in the works but take that with a grain of salt.

 

 

Who did we miss?  Let us know!  We never shy away from people telling us we’re missing out on kids!  Our next Feature Five Friday will take on the top returning linebackers in AAA! Let us know who should be in there!

C&CO. EXCLUSIVE: APC Player Interviews

Robert Arnold

Offensive Tackle
Robert C. Byrd High School
Class of 2019

Personal Goals: Arnold looks to find a spot on the first team all-state list at the end of next season. Arnold says he “Looks to be a fierce competitor and earn any awards” that he is eligible for, such as the Stydahar Award.

Team Goals: To develop the young quarterback and improve the secondary at Robert C. Byrd were high on Arnold’s list of team goals. Arnold also tells us that RCB has a strong O-line and run game and the team is only looking to fill a handful of holes next season. Arnold says the biggest challenges on the schedule for RCB next year are Fairmont Senior and Bridgeport, two “AA” powerhouses.

Recruiting: Arnold told us that he is being recruited by a few schools including Fairmont State, West Liberty, and West Virginia Wesleyan. Arnold announced Tuesday morning that he had been offered by Graceland University as well. Arnold’s senior campaign should also gain him a great deal of exposure.

 

Breece Hoff

Linebacker
Capital High School
Class of 2019

Personal Goals: Breece Hoff is a very versatile player who has player multiple positions for the Cougars over the last couple seasons, but he says one of his main focuses this year is to improve his statistics is the Sacks and Tackle-for-Loss categories. Breece wants to rack up at least 80 tackles this season in his pursuit for the Huff award.

Team Goals: Hoff was very clear in letting us know that the Capital Cougars have a state championship caliber team down in Charleston this season. Capital’s other impact players include Kalai Clark, Chance Knox, and Kerry Martin Jr. Though this team looks unstoppable, Breece says Johnson Central (KY.) will be a big test for them this season.

Recruiting: Breece has, just in the last couple days, picked up a scholarship offer from West Virginia Wesleyan and is likely to pick up offers from other MEC teams as well.

 

 

Kole Puffenberger

Quarterback
Pendleton County High School
Class of 2019

Personal Goals: There may not be another player in West Virginia who is clearer on what they want to accomplish and how they want to do it than Kole Puffenberger. Kole told us at the combine that he plans to stay in the weight room until the season begins to build up to a 300-pound max bench press. Once the season starts though, his goal is to rack up 1000 rushing yards and 2000 passing yards.

Team Goals: With Puffenberger at the helm, the Pendleton County Wildcats look to get more consistent play out of their offensive line and come together as team more to find some motivation. Puffenberger says that a big goal for the team this year is to host a playoff game. The team that the Pendleton QB thinks will be the most challenging is Petersburg, but he also said he knows that East Hardy is tough.

Recruiting: Puffenberger performed exceptionally well at the Appalachian Prep Combine and certainly increased his stock. He has been pursued by West Virginia Wesleyan as well as West Virginia State University. He is expected to gather much more interest his senior season.

 

Nick Malone

Offensive Tackle
Morgantown High School
Class of 2019

Personal Goals: Malone is one of the many elite tackles in the state during what very well may be West Virginia’s best year ever for linemen. Malone shared with us that he is looking to increase his exposure to college coaches, but his main goal this season is to win the Stydahar Award. With tough competition like Robert Arnold, Darnell Wright, and Doug Nester also making their case to be the Stydahar award winner, we should have a great season of lineman competition ahead of us.

Team Goals: Malone will be a team captain next season and he wants everyone to know that the Mohigans are ready to make a run. Nick said, “We want a state championship, nothing else matters.” Malone is only 1 piece of Morgantown’s solid offensive line. Though they have a strong run game and a swarming defense, the Mohigans will have to battle for the title of “AAA” state champion. Malone let us know that Morgantown High will not be squaring up against the Bulldogs of Martinsburg this year, so their toughest games, to him are against Fort Hill, MD and Steubenville, OH.

Recruiting: Malone tells us that the has had a handful of looks from Division 1 schools but wasn’t specific in naming which ones. He told us if he had his choice he’d like to be a Tennessee Volunteer. Malone has a multitude of camps planned for the summer in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

 

Chance Knox

Wide Receiver
Capital High School
Class of 2020

Personal Goals:  Chance Knox is a young WR that showcased his speed and elusiveness during his sophomore campaign. Knox looks to improve his overall game this off-season to be a better WR for his team next season. He wants to focus on the fundamentals of the game and getting better at his position. Knox’s main goals for next season is to improve his number of catches and receiving yards, while helping the Cougars on their Championship pursuit.

Team Goals: Knox says that Capital is trying to fill some holes on the defensive side of the ball this season, but as most of the state knows, the Cougars never rebuild, they just reload. Knox stressed to us that he wants his team to be ready because their biggest test of the season is their first game. The Cougars take on the “AAAA” Kentucky powerhouse Johnson Central High School in their opener, and it will be a battle.

Recruiting: Knox is still a young player but has already caught the eyes of Division 2 schools in and around the state. If Knox continues to impress as he has, his recruiting is likely to pick up during and after his junior season.

 

Christian Hanna

Center
Huntington High School
Class of 2019

Personal Goals: Christian Hanna is one part of Huntington High’s stellar offensive line. He is preparing for his senior campaign, and he wants to make sure it is one to remember. He looks to get stronger and faster while continuing to be aggressive on the field. Hanna is an absolute mauler, there were several instances at the APC where he had to be reminded that the players didn’t have pads on.

Team Goals: Huntington will have a new RB and QB for Hanna and company to protect this season. Hanna told us that he wants to make sure he is keeping them protected at all times. Hanna wants the whole state to know that this season, the Highlanders are going to “Run the scoreboard up and plow people in the ground, like we always do.” When asked about the biggest challenges on Huntington’s schedule next year, Hanna replied “Nothing, we’re not scared of nobody.”

Recruiting: Christian Hanna was a bit of a “late bloomer” so he did not have lot of initial recruiting buzz. However, now that Hanna is establishing himself as an elite lineman, schools like West Virginia State and other MEC institutions have him on their boards.

 

Malakai Brown

Wide Receiver
Hedgesville High School
Class of 2020

Personal Goals: Malakai Brown was the best wide receiver in the state last season. He received the Moss Award and racked up an absurd amount of TD’s and yards for the Eagles during his sophomore year. Malakai told us that he wants to improve on his stats from last year and finish with even more receiving yards and TD’s during his junior campaign.

Team Goals: Hedgesville is hoping to improve on last years record and reach the “AAA” playoffs. Malakai told us that a big goal the team has this year is to reach the second round of the playoffs. They have laid the foundation, but now want to take the next step.

Recruiting: Malakai Brown was the top receiver at the Appalachian Prep Combine this year and was the nation’s leader in receptions last season for underclassmen. That’s right. The nation. Brown is gaining interest from many schools with all the accolades he is racking up. He has not yet made much of his recruiting public, but as long as Malakai keeps playing at this elite level, big-time offers are certain to come his way.

 

 

Chandler Cooper

Quarterback
Bluefield High School
Class of 2019

Personal Goals: Chandler Cooper is the returning Quarterback for the Bluefield Beavers. Along with Mookie Collier and Truck Edwards, Cooper led the Beavers to a state championship the 2017 season. Cooper shows phenomenal leadership skills that really set him apart from other QB’s. Cooper has many goals this offseason as he prepares for his senior year. In the weight room, Cooper wants to hit a 1 rep max of 365 on squat and 300 on the bench press by next season. Along with improving his accuracy and throw power, Cooper also wants to improve his athleticism, so he can be a more mobile QB next year.

Team Goals: Cooper was very clear in stating what the Beavers want to do next season. He knows there are high expectations to go back-to-back, but Cooper believes if they “Give absolutely everything they have and leave it in God’s hands,” they will be right where they want to be at the end of the season. Bluefield usually plays a pretty tough schedule, but their toughest test of the season may come when the Beavers have their annual battle with the Graham G-Men.

Recruiting: Cooper was not the main attraction at Bluefield last year due to the Mookie Collier show. However, Cooper’s solid QB play and strong leadership have grabbed the interest of a couple of schools from the Mountain East conference as well as Alderson-Broaddus. A repeat for the Beavers would also improve the stock of this talented QB.